Wednesday, August 30, 2006


We had (by two separate companies, by the way) two important deliveries today: our new clothes washer and dryer and our new DVR unit. Susan read the manual for the washer and dryer and washed the inaugural loads of clothes, and I read the manual for the DVR and watched the inaugural television programs. Division of duties, you see.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Home Improvement

We love, love, love our house, but, as I told a friend, it was a wallpaper museum (or mausoleum?) when we moved in: a pasted-paper tribute to the 1980s, '70s, and '60s. To put our own touch on it and bring it into the present, we have
  • painted the office green
  • de-papered Hillary's bedroom and painted it pink (with stripes in three additional shades of pink below the chair rail)
  • de-papered our bedroom and painted it purple (with a darker shade of purple below the chair rail)
  • de-papered our kitchen and dining room and painted them "heavy cream"
  • painted our laundry room "Acapulco sand" (a tan shade)
  • de-papered the front entry and hallway to the upstairs bedrooms

Next up?

  • paint the living room blue
  • paint the entry/upstairs hallway "heavy cream" and a shade of blue darker than that in the living room
  • paint the main bathroom upstairs a shade of blue above the chair rail to match the counter and a shade of green below the chair rail to match the shower tiles
  • paint the smaller bathroom upstairs white (and remove a cabinet in it)
  • paint the downstairs hallway and family room two shades of tan/brown (above and below the chair rail)
  • paint the downstairs storage rooms the lighter shade from the family room
  • paint Suzanna's bedroom green (with stripes in three additional shades of green below the chair rail)
  • paint Abigail's bedroom blue (with stripes in three additional shades of blue below the chair rail)

We've also had a split-system air conditioning system installed and are waiting to have egress windows installed in Suzanna's and Abigail's bedrooms. Our new washer and dryer come for our laundry room on Tuesday. We've had wireless Internet and digital TV installed. We have furniture to purchase, too: an entertainment center, a desk, a dining table and chairs, a music cabinet, some storage shelves, etc.

Oh, and I mowed our lawn for the first time yesterday! It was so thick that the girls and I had to rake it up today after the cuttings had dried. A far different kind of lawn from our previous one (this one is thick, lucious, deep green, healthy . . .). We have a crab apple tree in our front yard that is heavy with fruit. If our home were more in order, I'd pick them and Susan would make jelly from them.

We've had several neighbors come over to introduce themselves--something that never happened in the 10 years at our previous home but has happened within 10 days at this one! And several neighbors, mind you! We're eager to have our house in order (messy work done, furniture in place, boxes unpacked) so that we can host our new friends and neighbors and show them the house we like so much.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Oh, and By the Way . . .

We moved.

We live in Dickinson, ND now--"Explore the Western Edge," "The Queen City," etc.--and it has been a whirlwind last coupla months. Basically, we accepted job offers one week in July, put our house on the market the next Monday, sold it two days later, bought a house in Dickinson four days later, and spent the remaining weeks packing until the movers came August 11. I started work August 1, so I spent a couple weeks living with my father-in-law in his apartment during the week and driving home on the weekends. Susan, the girls, and I spent one weekend with her dad in the interval between our departure from our former house and the closing on our new home.

Now we're "home" and loving it. It's a mess; we've been ripping down wallpaper (with the help of Susan's family--thanks Cassie, Nick, and Roger!) and painting and leaving many boxes unpacked until we're done with wall work and can move furniture into place. It's a much bigger house than our previous one, so it's fun to move around in and arrange our stuff in and imagine purchases we'll need to make for it (a dining room set, an entertainment center, storage shelves, etc.). It'll be great when we've got our last box unpacked and everything in place . . . several months down the road, probably!

No more driving five or six hours to visit relatives or "go home" for the holidays. Susan's family are right here, and mine are now only about two hours away to the north. And Dickinson is proving to be a warm and welcoming city with a lot to offer. We miss the friends we've left behind, but this feels right.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Abigail's Birthday

Abigail turned 7 on Saturday, and our celebration of her birth included going out to eat at El Sombrero, opening presents, having an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen, and going to the movie Barnyard (more about that here). Afterward, we were telling Grandpa Gustafson about the movie, and we noted that the male cows in the movie had just as prominent udders as the females. Abigail, though, referred to them as "gutters." Kyoot! Mommy was in stitches, and poor Abigail couldn't figure out what we were laughing about.

She had a good time opening her presents, which included quite a number of items from her wish list (though not a hamster). She got some fancy dresses and high-heel shoes for playing dress-up, some jewelry, a jewelry case, a new backpack for school, some clothes, several Barbie dolls and related toys . . . and probably some other stuff that I just am not remembering at the moment.

I can't believe she's 7 years old! She's getting so tall and is just as energetic and uninhibited as ever. When modeling the dress-up clothes, she walked into and out of the room with quite the sashay, like a runway model. During the closing credits of the movie (through which we always sit, not only to catch any tidbits included by the director, such as outtakes, but also to show respect to all the behind-the-scenes people who make the movie possible but get ignored by those who walk out while the credits roll) (*end of sermon*), she stood up and danced in place, swinging her hips and moving her arms above her head and singing along . . . without any regard for who was walking past her or watching her from the back of the theater.

I hope she always keeps that individuality, self-expression, joy of life, energy . . . all the wonderful stuff that goes into making her Abigail!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Unwelcome Visitor

Today's entry is provided by guest blogger Susan (my wife), who chronicled in an e-mail to our friends an adventure she had last night while I was away:

Okay, here's another example of "why I'm never going to win the mother of the year award." First, I have to fill you all in on something: I HATE little furry vermin. Mice, rats, gerbils, hamsters--DETEST them all. And I have a track record of not handling situations dealing with the little creatures well. Kevin still laughs when he thinks about the night a mouse ran across the family room carpet. I jumped onto the couch and started shrieking at the top of my lungs. I made the girls all climb on the furniture for about 20 minutes. Then I made them all sleep in Hillary's room, because I didn't want them in the basement. Irrational, yes. But that's just me.

Tonight when Suzanna was getting ready for bed, she heard a noise outside her window. Pretty soon Abigail is running up the stairs shouting, "There's a squirrel in Suzanna's wishing well!!" (Yes, she meant "window well"--but her version was cuter.) I went down to investigate, since Kevin isn't here to take care of it. Did I mention that I also hate to dispose of bugs? Just basically a big baby when it comes to any of those sorts of creatures. Suzanna's had little toads in her wishing well before, and Kevin found a little dead bunny in one of them once.

So, I walked into Suzanna's room, went to the window, and there was a furry little face staring in at me and clawing at the screen, trying to get out of the window well!!!! Suzanna said, "I think it's a rat!" I said, "No, it can't be a rat. It is probably just a little gopher." After a bit of discussion (they tried to persuade me that the creature needed to be rescued; I tried to convince them that it could wait until daylight), I decided to pretend I was "brave Mommy" for a while and give rescue a shot. I rummaged around upstairs until I found a flashlight (can you believe we hadn't packed it?!) then headed outside to find a shovel. It wasn't in the garage or sunroom. I finally had to venture out to the shed (across the VERY DARK back yard--already a little freaked out by the clawed creature lurking in the window well) and then fight with the rusted padlock (yes, I dropped the keys in the lawn and had to search for them), but I finally found the shovel. And so I headed over to the window well.

When I arrived at the window well, I looked down, and the girls had shut off the light in Suzanna's room and opened up the shades--the better to see me with! I did a quick once-around the window well with the flashlight, didn't see any fur, and decided it had escaped all on its own. Not so--the girls were happy to point out the little side corner where the creature was waiting--complete with 9-12 inch long tail!!!!! Do gophers have long tails like rats???? So, I turned around, put the shovel away, and returned to the house.

Suzanna and Abigail are sleeping together in Abigail's bed. The blinds are shut in Suzanna's room, and the shades are drawn. I realize that this is COMPLETELY irrational, but I don't really care. I might get brave enough to shovel out the creature tomorrow, or he might just have to stay there until Kevin returns. But, here's a lesson for all of you: cover your egress window wells to avoid this same problem!!!! Hmmmm....maybe I could get the kid next door to come over tomorrow and "free willy."

In case you're wondering, if it were a rabbit, I would have had no problems liberating it.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Transmission Accomplished

So I'm driving west to Dickinson, ND on Sunday, and it's hot out, and I'm going up and down the hills of the Valley City/Jamestown area on Interstate 94, and I've got the air conditioning blasting at top speed, and life is good. However, just on the west side of Jamestown, I started to notice that the Explorer wasn't pulling up the hills; it was really slowing down when trying to go uphill. Then I noticed a white fog billowing out from the back of the vehicle, and I decided I ought to pull over. I took the Cleveland, ND exit, stopped at the stop sign at the end of the exit, and couldn't get the vehicle to go forward. It was still running fine, but there was no pull when I pushed the accelerator. I was stranded at Cleveland (highway sign: "No Services") on a hot summer afternoon without a way to contact help.

A gentleman pulled up in his pickup and offered to give me a ride to a closed gas station to use the pay phone outside, but we discovered that the phone had been removed. So he drove me to his house to use his cell phone. When I walked in, his parents and some guests were sitting at the kitchen table, and they said, "Hi! Pretty hot out there, huh?" They just started visiting without even asking me who I was! Love that North Dakota hospitality. I phoned my sister-in-law Cheryl in Mandan, and she said, "Let this be a lesson to you: You need to get a cell phone!"

I was able to contact a service station in Jamestown, and a young man came out and towed me to the Ford dealership in town. Then he drove me to the station so I could pay for the towing and then back to the dealership so that I could grab some things before walking across the street to the Quality Inn to spend the night (assessment: not so much quality). The next morning the mechanics at the Ford shop told me that the aluminum of the transmission case expanded in the intense heat and released the transmission fluid. They filled it back up, drove it around for a while, and returned, suspecting that it should allow me to get to Dickinson before investing in a full-scale transmission repair.

They were right. I arrived safely and went to the Ford dealership in Dickinson, where an overworked and tense shop foreman was rude, rude, rude. So I took the Explorer to Schmidt Transmission instead, where the service was friendly and efficient. They weren't able to work on it that day, but I brought in the vehicle Tuesday morning, and they had it ready (they rebuilt the transmission) this morning. Here's hoping for no more vehicle problems as I traverse the sere and searing plains and valleys of North Dakota.